A lot of people assume that cradle Catholics like me are living the unexamined life. That isn’t true. I think the number of reverts and out of the Cafeteria Catholics like me are probably as many, if not more, than the number of converts. I suspect there are a number of people of my age and younger who are coming Home.
I was baptised Catholic and brought up in what can only be described as fake Catholic ways. As I’ve mentioned before, I lived through the catechism and Scripture free zones of the ’70s to ’90s. I still don’t understand what happened in that generation, but whatever it was it was bigger, more complicated and more sinister than merely “post Vatican II” or “spirit of Vatican II”. After all it wasn’t just Catholics who lost the faith, protestant churches nose dived as well. Perahaps the Orthodox churches stayed pretty clean (I know the Russian and Serbian churches had to tackle some serious problems but those were more nationalistic and political, and therefore somewhat different from the Western problems). The Eastern Rites seem to have weathered things better than the rest of us.
I came to the Church via this confusing upbringing, through the New Age and some of it’s worst practices, via Islam, and some protestant churches, and finally back Home.
The root of what brought me to this place was/is the question of authority. If Christ is who He says He is, what was the Church He said He was going to found? Where is that Church? And how is Jesus keeping His promise that the gates of the underworld will not prevail against it?
I didn’t ask this question straight away on my journey. Anti-authority rhetoric was a big part of my upbringing, along with bullying disguised as authority – so it was sonmthing to avoid not ask about.
I thought the Church was doo-lally on a number of things; sex, women priests and to a lesser degree money.
The question of authority came to me after reading Lavinia Byrne’s book Women At the Altar. It’s a book that has been well and truly taken apart by historians, leaving me wondering how some books get published. At the time, however, I wasn’t so well read in history and I’d accepted what she said. But as her book came to be published, Pope John Paul II had written an apostolic letter on how women were never going to be ordained in the Catholic Church. The encyclical was put at the back of the book as an appendix. My guess is, most readers didn’t bother to read it. Well, I did read it. The words that jumped off the page at me were a quote from Pope Paul VI
the Church does not consider herself authorised to admit women to priestly ordination.
Not authorised? So the pope can’t decide with the bishops what the Church should do and say? I needed to know what this limit in authority was rooted in and what the limits were.
This was no longer a question of why the Catholic Church doesn’t and never will ordain women. It was a question of authority. From where does the Church claim her authority? And the only way to answer that question was to get reading some solid history.
I love the story Mother Miriam of the Lamb of God told about her conversion journey. She had come to see Jesus was the Jewish Messiah and had joined an Evangelical church. Her brother David was Catholic by this point (founder of the Assoc. of Hebrew Catholics) and had asked her to read the Church Fathers. She went to her minister to tell him she was about to embark on this reading and he advised her not to. Why? Because she would become Catholic if she read the Fathers, he warned her. He was right.
I haven’t read much of the Father’s yet, but I’ve read a lot of history around them and about them. I saw where the Church came from, how she grew, how she was persecuted and how corrupt some of her leaders, even popes, could be.
It was the bad popes that helped me the most. …